City of Heroes might not have been sustainable for NCSoft, but its popularity and legacy was great enough to spawn several spiritual successors like City of Titans, Heroes and Villains and Valiance Online, all of which are in development.
On Monday, Nate Downes, President of Missing Worlds Media, the team behind City of Titans, announced that he, along with other members of the company and the City of Heroes community, had been in negotiations with NCSoft in the hopes of acquiring the CoH property.
The proposal could lead to these spiritual successors dropping the “spiritual” part, becoming sequels to CoH.
“The CoH IP would be spun to its own company, to handle licensing,” writes Downes This company would itself license the existing engine from NCSoft for the creation of a maintenance mode, using a binary copy of the i23 server.”
This would not include the existing user database, characters or the source code. Instead, it would create a “family connection” between the successors and the original MMO. They would be able to reference CoH, and it would enable the expansion of partnerships if the other studios wanted to do that.
Downes says that the Atlas Park Revival project, which is attempting to recreate the iconic Atlas Park from CoH, could also become part of the arrangement. The City of Titans build could be licensed to the team, and they’d be able to create a bridge between NCSoft’s deceased MMO and City of Titans.
None of this is set in stone, however. They are just in talks. “Right now, still discussing terms, ideas, limits. The challenges we have been given we stepped up for and handled. Likely there will be discussions and adjustments right up until the moment the deal is signed. The whole thing may fall apart. For all we know, everything done so far has been nothing but a delaying tactic so they can say once again that they tried to work with the community to no avail. But until such time that becomes clear, we will continue forward in good faith.”
Already, the Valiance Online team has politely declined the offer to be part of this potential family of superhero games.
“We love and respect and indeed even miss our City of Heroes as much as every one of you,” writes Nathaneal Vogeding, design lead on Valiance. “It was put forth that Nate Downes’ holding company, once they acquired the IP, would be glad to license the rights out to competing games, including our own. At first, the offer was tempting, to be able to directly point at our game and say “Look! We are a part of this greater world!” However, respectfully we will have to decline the offer.”
Valiance Online has, according to Vogeding, almost 200 years of lore and is very much its own thing, separate and distinct from CoH.
“We have no intention of ‘turning the boat’ around now, we are going to push forward with our designs, our systems, our writing, our art and hope that you all will understand why we proudly stand behind our work and are glad to call ourselves a true spiritual successor. We love and will never forget our old City, but we are moving forward to bring you the best experience that we can, one unburdened by the limitations of former systems, free from the demagoguery of another company who decides what we can and cannot do. No one can make that call of us except for you, the community. You are our guidepost in this adventure and we sincerely hope you will choose to come along for what will be one hell of a ride.”
It’s an unusual situation, and certainly one that wouldn’t have arisen if these weren’t games built by fans. Downes and the rest of the group involved in the negotiation – which he emphasises is separate from City of Titans, so if it falls through, the game isn’t negatively affected – want to tie games together that will otherwise be competitors.
If the proposal is accepted, it would certainly be a boon to the games that take advantage of it. Even AAA MMOs struggle and have to claw their way to sustainability, let alone indie MMOs inspired by a defunct game.